That Wasn't Timmy, Lassie!
There is something in our nature that makes us love breaking bricks. It's a simple activity, one that provides some instant gratification. Hit ball, break bricks. What a wonderful combination. In came Creature in the Well, instantly catching my attention by combining brick breaking with the gameplay style you'd see in something like Furi. So is this a creature worth battling? Or, are your efforts better spent elsewhere?
Unfortunately, Creature in the Well does not put its best foot forward. The menu screen is iffy right off the bat. You have to move the character to three tiny flags that represent save files. This despite there being no indication nor any real reason for you to do so. After that, an introductory cutscene features a bizarrely peaceful music composition backing up the howling winds of an endless desert. Characters speak to each other, but there's no voice acting and the dialog displays in a way that looks like subtitles. At points, I thought the audio broke. Thankfully, things recovered after this intro, but not to the extent that it needed to.
Well Well Well...
The basics behind Creature in the Well is that you play as a robot lost in a sandstorm. After coming upon the town of Mirage. you discover a giant machine at its center. When powered on, this mechanical colossus will disperse the sandstorm. Unfortunately, before the machine initially turned on, a mysterious creature took it over, destroying the crew and preventing it from starting. Now it's up to your robot to fight off the creature, fix the machine, and save the day. While an interesting idea, the plot doesn't really do much of anything. The only point of interest is the titular creature, but you never learn anything about it. Why did it take over the machine? Why is it so afraid of ending the sandstorm? Does it actually do anything? None of these answers come.
The basic high-level concept of Creature in the Well is crossing brick-breaking classic Breakout with a top-down action game. You can smack around a ball that will gather energy and charge the objects it crashes into. As the game advances you'll gain items that let you hold a ball in place and charge it as well, both making it stronger and helping with aiming. New weapons give you new powers, and by the end of the game, I could cut balls into three, create an aiming laser, and chain shock enemies with electricity. Of course, I also dodged lasers sent my way and reflected balls charged with red energy.
Playing Ping Pong in Creature in the Well
At first, this is pretty fun. There's enough uniqueness behind Creature in the Well's concept to make it enjoyable. There's certainly a real thrill to taking out a group of enemies with a well-placed strike. Seeing a ball rapidly bounce between a wall and a bumper until the bumper breaks are one of those simple joys that never really goes away. As you go balls to the wall you gain energy that you'll spend to open doors to further advance in each stage, and can later spend to upgrade your bot and give them the ability to hit objects harder and take them out faster.
By the third stage, I realized that things were getting boring. The whole of Creature in the Well simply doesn't have the variety needed to carry it through its full 5 to 6-hour runtime. I kept trying to get back into it, but Creature in the Well was losing me. I began to notice stages would reuse the same layouts from earlier stages. There are secrets, but they are not hidden well. Sometimes when you clear rooms, you get a "you found a secret!" pop up and a wall opens. Some stages try to introduce gimmicks, but these are things like "you have to get the ball through a small hole" and "moving platforms." Frankly, they're less gimmicks and more just expected inclusions.
Breaking Creature in the Well Wide Open
Each level ends in a fight with the titular Creature, and this too is the exact same. You'll step onto an elevator and the Creature will pull you down three to four levels. However, you don't fight the Creature directly. Instead, you just do what you were already doing: smack the ball into specific walls. The only difference is now sometimes the Creature will shoot at you a few times as you do this. When you finish a level you get to move up once, meaning each Creature fight is doing this several times in a row. Only a single level in a single fight, involving turning on lasers to stop the creature from healing walls, felt like it was unique.
Then I found out how to break the game. One of the items you can use to charge the balls makes it so that, if you catch an enemy ball with it, it'll heal you a little. Lasers will turn balls into enemy balls. If you catch a few balls and stand in the path of a laser they'll keep turning evil, healing you, then turning evil again. You'll heal faster than you take damage. Thus, my robot was suddenly immortal. It didn't matter what happened. As long as I stood in front of a laser, I would go back to full health. I had made the game toothless.
Creature in the Well Review | Final Thoughts
That's the story of how I killed Creature in the Well. Not just the game, but the actual creature too. At some point, I realized I wanted to like Creature in the Well more than I actually liked it. I kept pulling for it, hoping it'd change things up. I hoped it'd offer me the challenge and satisfaction I expected from such a clever mix-up. It was not to be. Sadly, I instead found my biggest disappointment of 2019.
TechRaptor reviewed Creature in the Well on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the developers. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
- Awesome Ideas
- Some Genuienly Fun Moments
- Awful Opening
- Too Easy to Break